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Houston Rockets Exit Interviews: Harden, Howard, Ariza and McHale

By Tamberlyn Richardson
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Houston Rockets Exit Interviews: Part 1

It was exactly a week ago that our Houston Rockets season ended. While it was a disappointment to lose to the Warrior and miss out on a trip to the finals, the truth is this season cannot be considered anything less than a success. Given the number of injuries the team dealt with throughout the year, including two key members missing the post season it is a testament to their character they were able to make the Western Conference Finals.

Now the team begins the process of establishing work assignments for the summer for each player with a view to improving their individual game and with an overall view of team growth. Simultaneously management will look towards the upcoming draft and free agency to further improve the team and build upon their highly successful season.

We at Space City Scoop will mirror these efforts as we also begin our season wrap up with individual player analysis from 2014-15 highlighting player performance, growth, areas to improve and the likelihood of their return should they be entering free agency.

From there we’ll look at the upcoming draft and what prospects the team should target with the 18th pick and whether they should look to move up. Following the draft we’ll analyze the free agent market including several key Rockets (Jason Terry, Corey Brewer, Josh Smith and Patrick Beverley) who will need to either be re-signed or replaced.

Prior to that, let’s take a look at what the players were saying as they emptied their lockers and gave their exit interviews.

Highlights From The Big Three:

James Harden:

  • Says there are a lot of positives to take away from the year, with a group who has been together under a year. We’ll take summer to grow and try to win it all next year.
  • Harden stressed the positives especially considering how they exited last season.
  • Asked what he can take from last 5-6weeks to next season: He highlighted how strong the team is citing when they are focused they succeed.
  • Noting areas to improve: He brings up consistency. NOTE: Harden was the only player to touch on this issue which I’m sure we at SCS will be giving much more attention to in the upcoming season reviews. Personally, I think this is the main issue on the team given the disparity in the point differential in games won and lost during the post season.
  • Summer Improvement: will work on shooting, coming off pin-downs, lowering turnovers, ball handling, post up game
  • Says his biggest growth came in being consistent, especially as a leader.
  • He stresses with Jason Terry, Corey Brewer, Josh Smith all being in their first year with team they had to rely on basketball instincts over chemistry because they’ll improve with more time spent as a unit.
  • Asked what separates Golden State from Houston: Harden says a couple of possessions was the difference in the series specifically in games one and two. NOTE: we touched on this in our post game and pre game analysis throughout the series. While most pundits have been content to say Golden State took out the Rockets easily, the reality is the first two games in Oakland were won by a cumulative 5 points, so Harden’s point is on the money. One or two possessions in either game could have seen the Rockets returning to Houston with a split or even up 2 games. They know how close they were to taking games and possibly the series and that will motivate their off season workouts as the prepare for next season.

James Harden: Exit Interview 5/29/2015 http://t.co/Neg1tVeSdw via @houstonrockets

— Space City Scoop (@SpaceCity_Scoop) June 3, 2015

Dwight Howard:

  • Howard stressed there is no need to hang their heads given it’s only James & his second season together and they were just 3 games away from the finals. He says with tweaks (and stressed on the existing team not via personnel changes) the team will improve.
  • His off season work: stay mentally strong regardless of what is being thrown at him, improve his free throws and to be a great leader. NOTE: it’s time Daryl Morey invested in an off season (or full time) shooting coach to work with Howard, Smith, Capella, Dorsey and whoever else on the team needs massive improvements in this area.
  • Asked about the difficulties of dealing with the injuries all year: he said it was difficult but that he feels the team will be stronger for it stressing being a champion begins with the mindset.
  • Asked about silencing the critics Howard gave a great quote saying: “if I didn’t want to be criticized I should of not played basketball I should of stayed in bed all day”
  • Pushed to specify what tweaks he was referencing the team needed: He cites improved defense and trusting each other more as the two main issues.
  • He noted the pain of getting so close to the finals will drive each of them in the off season to return and reach their ultimate goal (Championship)

Dwight Howard: Exit Interview 5/29/2015 http://t.co/gljQxKBoNP via @houstonrockets

— Space City Scoop (@SpaceCity_Scoop) June 3, 2015

Trevor Ariza:

  • Notes the trades made a huge difference and though he gelled he can’t wait to play a full season together.
  • He speaks to joining Rockets and how he’s happy he made the decision to join Houston and feels it was the correct decision.
  • He notes what separates the team is regardless of the situation they find ways to win.
  • Says he wouldn’t trade the guys in the locker room for anyone!
  • What’s needed for team to take next step? He says I’m just a player so he’ll leave that to the head office to figure out what is necessary to take next step.
  • On McHale: What he’s accomplished as a player translates to the coaching, he is very encouraging and is the type of coach you want to play for

Trevor Ariza: Exit Interview 5/29/2015 http://t.co/lqREBB5Mqr via @houstonrockets

— Space City Scoop (@SpaceCity_Scoop) June 3, 2015

Kevin McHale:

  • Says they’ll speak to each player and coach to discuss what needs to improve.
  • Specifically highlights the need for consistent strong rebounding and better ball movement and stresses the need for health (highlighting playing without Demo & Beverley did contribute to the post season adversity).
  • On Harden handling the ball: he feels James needs to improve his movement off the ball, which means the team needs to have better ball and body movement.
  • Where team progressed the most: Defensively he felt the team took strides specifically highlighting Ariza’s leadership which gave them an identity and how Brewer and Smith were able to change tempo and change the complexion of the game.
  • He feels health played a big role given the injuries the team constantly dealt with.
  • Does he want the core back: He does want them back given how successful they were this season. He noted the addition of Clint Capela was huge and expects growth next season from the rookie as well as the addition of a healthy Terrence Jones for a full season.
  • Re the season: he spoke to the character of the team and how they fought hardest when their backs were against the wall, noting they didn’t have any long winning streaks, but more importantly they didn’t have any long losing streaks either. (notably the Rockets never lost more than 2 games in a row all season until the Golden State series)

Kevin McHale: Exit Interview 5/29/2015 http://t.co/BgQBSELV8q via @houstonrockets

— Space City Scoop (@SpaceCity_Scoop) June 3, 2015

Our next article provides additional exit interviews from Corey Brewer, Josh Smith, Patrick Beverley and Donatas Motiejunas.

Next: Exit Interviews, Part 2

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